The Modern Olympic Games
HISTORY OF THE OLYMPIC VILLAGE The Olympic Village of today is almost a small city! It is usually located close to the competition venues and its construction is taken very seriously dur- ing preparations for the Games. In Sydney in 2000, for example, the Village accommodated over 15 000 athletes and officials – the equivalent of several suburbs ! The athletes enjoy many advantages. They can eat in the Village restaurant 24 hours a day, go to the hairdresser or watch a film at the cinema. They can also relax after their competitions in bars and discothèques.
When the Games have finished, the housing is sold or rented to the local population.
Athletes have not always benefitted from this type of accommodation. Before the Los Angeles Games in 1932 they stayed in a variety of places:
SHIPSHAPE ACCOMMODATION There was no Olympic Village for the athletes at the first few Olympic Games. Some of them stayed in hotels or hostels. Others chose cheaper accommodation in schools or barracks. And some slept in the boats they had taken to the Olympic city. This was the case at the Amsterdam Games in 1928, when the Americans, Italians and Finns stayed in the harbour!
A MINIATURE TOWN, A MINIATURE WORLD The first true Olympic Village was built for the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Athletes (men only) from 37 countries ate, slept and trained together. For the first time certain community services were provided: a hospital, a fire station and a post office. In the early days women stayed in hotels, not the Olympic Village. It was not until the 1956 Games in Melbourne that the Olympic Village was open to both sexes.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TAKING PART Out of the thousands of people who enter the Olympic competitions, only a small propor- tion of athletes and teams reach the finals.
Participation in the Games is what counts the most for the majority of competitors: to have the honour of representing their country, to rub shoulders with elite athletes and to have the opportunity to give their best. This is all part of the spirit of the Olympic Games!
Pierre de Coubertin spoke of this at the beginning of the 20th century: “In these Olympiads, the important thing is not winning but taking part. […] What counts in life is not the victory
but the struggle; the essential thing is not to conquer but to fight well.” Revue Olympique, July 1908, p.110. (from a speech given during the London Olympic Games in 1908)
Almost a century later, at the Olympic Games in Sydney, the spirit remains the same. Perdita Felicien, a member of the Canadian team, explained how important her Olympic experience was to her:
“…even though I was eliminated in the preliminary round of the 100m hurdles, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Even though the months of religious training and the exhausting 30 hours of flight to Sydney only
meant exactly 13.21 seconds of running on the hottest track in the world that day, it was beyond worth it.” Comments made on her athletics team’s website, 27 Novembe , 2000.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN! The Olympic Games last a maximum of 16 days. During this time athletes and spectators experience some intense moments: a new record, a sporting gesture, dignity in defeat and victory alike, and the whole spectrum of human emotions.